Kirkgate Quarter Chronicle : December 2023

Welcome to the December 2023 edition of the Kirkgate Quarter Chronicle.

What an amazing year for Kirkgate Arts & Heritage!

At the Kirkgate Centre we’ve seen over 160 big screen events, over 50 live music performances plus exhibitions, table top sales, theatre shows, Cockfrock events, workshops and more over the last 12 months. It’s no wonder all our volunteers and staff feel more than ready to put their feet up for a week or so over Christmas!

This moment of quiet time will also give everyone the chance to reflect on the wonderful achievement of The Kings Award for Voluntary Service, which we were delighted to received last month.

Celebrations at Kirkgate Arts, on receiving The Kings Award for Voluntary Service.


2023 saw the addition of cooking@Kirkgate to our regular events, thanks to the installation of our superb catering kitchen downstairs, which have proved incredibly popular! They have become a really warm social event as well as an opportunity to learn all sorts of culinary skills.

There’s more workshops to come in 2024 (scroll down for more info) so keep checking the ticket website for details, the workshop places do book up quickly!

This year has also brought the glitz and glamour of drag cabaret to town with ‘Fever‘ becoming a regular feature on the Kirkgate calendar. We’re looking forward to seeing them return in February.


If you are a regular at the centre you will almost certainly have met our featured volunteer this month. Penny Lees is involved in many ways with us here at Kirkgate Arts & Heritage, and here she is to tell you a bit about those varied roles.

“Volunteers are valued a lot at the Kirkgate, to say the very least ! The recent Kings Award illustrates the beneficial effect of those giving up time to assist their community.

I have always tended to support organisations that I am involved with beyond just being a member and recently, as some of you will know, my attentions have turned to our special Arts venue.

At The Kirkgate my input has been across a range of activities.  I currently assist marketing operations, bar services and front of house duties, helping audiences enjoy the huge range of entertainment. It certainly can keep you busy and fit (posters around town, delivering bar supplies), plus I enjoy talking to folk!

Most recently, a group of us are looking at fundraising more closely, as grants to enable projects don’t always include the all consuming operational budget -do come forward with any ideas to add to the mix or help make them happen.

The involvement of the merry band of volunteers spans a range of tasks to enable efficient and cost effective operations.  Many take place out of the public eye behind the scenes,  covering a myriad of tasks – most of which I cannot begin to name but someone can!. I am aware that the bar recycling disappears, chairs and tables shift with mind blowing regularity, events sheets and interval drinks order forms replenish, films/entertainers/external users are booked….. not to mention making it all actually happen!

In fact, any skills or interests, within reason, are likely to be useful in some way, just enquire. I spoke with a new volunteer who said he had been fitting skirting boards but was happy to serve behind the bar. I would encourage anyone who would like to see the Kirkgate flourish as our fantastic local arts centre, to come forward and see how they can assist. The more the merrier….

You can also support events, encourage others to come along, become a FRIEND OF KIRKGATE, or perhaps make a regular or lifetime donation.

Here’s to the challenges and success of 2024, I am sure we will see many of you before long.”

Huge thanks to Penny for her commitment and dedication!
Here she is on a rare moment away from the Kirkgate!
If you would like to find out more about volunteering with us visit the ‘get involved’ page on our website for details of all the ways you can contribute to keeping Kirkgate Arts & Heritage thriving.


Saturday 16th December, 8pm, Soul Junction will be bringing the best in Soul and Motown sounds to Cockermouth. Get your glad rags and your dancing shoes on ready for a real party night! £2 from every ticket sold will go to The North Lakes Foodbank, and with tickets at just £12 how can you resist?!
Come along and shake a tail feather with us- book here.

Saturday 6th January, 7.30pm, is the return of The Great Big Kirkgate Quiz hosted by Quizmaster of all quizmasters Toby Gaffney. If you haven’t been along to one of these superb nights yet, get your ticket booked quick. Toby’s quizzes are always popular, and always entertaining! Click here for tickets.

On Saturday 27th January at 2pm we’re screening Dear England from National Theatre LiveJoseph Fiennes (The Handmaid’s Tale) plays Gareth Southgate in James Graham’s (Sherwood) gripping examination of nation and game. The country that gave the world football has since delivered a painful pattern of loss. Why can’t England’s men win at their own game? Click here for tickets.

After the success of our cooking@Kirkgate workshops we wanted to extend our educational events at the centre. After chatting with customers about what they’d like to see at The Kirkgate we are delighted to announce the first three of our crafts@Kirkgate events!

Learn the process of creating and printing your own single colour linocut. Linocut with Vega Brennan is on Saturday 3rd February, from 10am. Book your place here.

Create your own Willow Weave Bird Feeder with Ruth from Sylvan Skills on Saturday 10th February, from 10.30am. Book your place here.

Learn the skills needed to make a 15cm coaster using the process of PunchneedleSaturday 24th February, at 2pm. Book your place here.


For the last Chronicle of the year we are looking ahead, to January 2024, when Cockermouth Amateur Dramatic Society, better known as CADS, will be moving in to the theatre for their lastest show. Nick Stanley tells us more about CADS at Kirkgate
“Upon opening, the Kirkgate‘s very first performance was a Cockermouth Amateur Dramatic Society (CADS) production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing, directed by Bob Pritchard. It met with much acclaim and neither CADS nor the Kirkgate have looked back since. There have been dozens of plays of all types: classical and modern, tragedy and (much more often) comedy, pantomimes and musicals. Everything from Shakespeare to Ayckbourn and from Chekhov to Pinter.CADS is an informal drama group open to all. It provides opportunities to strut your stuff on the stage if you so wish or to help with backstage and technical roles. New members are always welcome and there will be opportunities for them to be involved in productions. 
We aim to work as a group to provide quality entertainment which audiences can enjoy. We also like a challenge. Perhaps the best example of that was when a play by Alan Ayckbourn was chosen for performance, which required as part of the set an intact, actual car. Many doubted it could be done, but despite all obstacles and difficulties, sure enough, audiences, on their arrival in the upstairs hall of the Kirkgate were greeted, to their astonishment, by a full-size actual Mini standing on the floor.Last year at Christmas time, CADS presented ‘The Farndale Avenue Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s production of A Christmas Carol . The Farndale Ladies series of plays are riotous comedies in which the ladies, with the utmost seriousness, proceed hilariously to get everything wrong on stage. Their Christmas Carol played to packed and delighted audiences here last December. This year CADS are presenting another in the series of Farndale Ladies’ plays. This time it’s Macbeth that gets the special, totally incompetent Farndale touch. “The Farndale Ladies break every rule of theatre and some rules that haven’t even been written yet.”
We’ve been in rehearsal since the start of September. It’s been great fun but it’s also been a lesson in how difficult it is to get everything wrong in exactly the right way.

Performances on Saturday 13th January 2pm & 7.30pm and Sunday 14th January 2pm. Tickets from the Kirkgate box office or online.”If you’re interested in joining CADS or just finding out more about the group, please contact:


This month we are welcoming a new business to the Kirkgate Quarter. We’ve noticed lots of activity over the last month or two just round the corner at 41 Market Place as Nicola and Derek have been busy creating a fresh new dining experience for Cockermouth…

“Step right up! A brand new restaurant has arrived!

At 41 Market Place, our menu is all about spicing up local ingredients and taking them to new heights! We’re passionate about partnering with local suppliers, farmers, fishermen, and even distillers to bring you the freshest and most flavourful dishes you can imagine.

Our menu undergoes seasonal changes, emphasising a broader dining philosophy rather than a specific type of cuisine. While not classified as fine dining, it’s not entirely casual either. We aim to provide a distinctive and memorable dining experience that’s both informative and unique. Come and savour this exceptional experience at 41 Market Place, Cockermouth.

The Story Behind Our Restaurant’s Co-Owners:Meet Derek and Nicola, two experienced individuals in the hospitality industry. Their goal is to bring a high-end dining experience to a laid-back, comfortable setting. Derek, hailing from Workington, and Nicola, originally from Australia, first crossed paths at Buttermere’s Bridge Hotel. Nicola served as the hotel manager while Derek led the kitchen as head chef. After five years of working together, they decided to turn their shared dream into reality and open a restaurant of their own.

Future Plans for the Restaurant: A Bartering System with Local ProducersThe restaurant is looking ahead and aims to develop a closer relationship with local fruit, vegetable and herb growers. This will be done by offering a bartering scheme, whereby the producers can trade their produce for a complimentary dessert or drinks.

The restaurant unlocks its doors for five nights of pure epicurean bliss – Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturday from 5.3-pm. And, it’s not just a one-night stand, Sunday lunches are also a thing! The verdict so far from diners? A resounding thumbs up!

Stay Updated with Our Latest News on Facebook and Instagram!For reservations, simply send us a message on Facebook Messenger or email us at

Click on an image above to visit


Our recent Shoemaking and Miller’s exhibition proved popular with many townspeople who worked there during its 50 years of existence in the town.  A fair number of workers came with the Company during WWII from Great Yarmouth and made Cockermouth their home. The exhibition, including the fascinating history of shoemaking in general in the town, was part of the bigger In My Shoes project, which will culminate with an exhibition in August 2024.  Included in that exhibition will be some of the oral testimonies of people who have moved to this part of the world, some with very different cultural roots and life experiences.

When we look at the wider picture of our country it is clear that many people have settled here from other areas and, indeed, from other countries, but still retain memories and links with the cultures that they grew up in, cultures with many different traditions and beliefs.  The history of our country is one of influxes of different groups of people, whether it be Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Norse, or Normans, and subsequently many others, all bringing their own traditions, language and culture, often intermarrying with local people. It is something to be celebrated because it adds richness to everyone’s lives.

Many of us, if we research our family trees, often find evidence of ancestors who came from other parts of our country and some from further afield.  A familiar story will be those who moved from working on the land into our developing towns and cities during the Industrial Revolution, searching for jobs that paid better wages, even if housing conditions were often grim.  Many will have Irish ancestors, some of whom emigrated to America and others who came to England (as in my own family).  World War II brought other people from Europe to this area: Italian and German Prisoners of War, and Displaced Persons from eastern Europe, many of whom stayed, married local people, and raised families here.  Many Cumbrian children growing up on farms during those war years have memories of toys made for them by German POWs (housed at Moota).  So I think it’s fair to say that we are a bit of a mongrel race, but all the richer for it.

Gloria Edwards

Images: Left- drawing of a girl (who later married a German POW from Moota!) by an Italian POW. Top right- Ship in a bottle made by a German POW during WWII. Bottom Right- Pecking hens toy, made by German POW for local children.


Katie: There’s so much to choose from it’s difficult to pick out just one show, but I am really looking forward to June and a very special Jazz@Kirkgate gig, with Hejira.  If you are a Joni Mitchell fan you’re going to love June and July at the Kirkgate! Not only are Hejira coming to town, but we also have ‘This Flight Tonight’ The Songs of Joni Mitchell on Saturday 6th July, as our big gig for the Cockermouth Live weekend. What better way to celebrate Joni’s 80th year.

Jocelyn: I’m particularly looking forward to seeing Dear England on the Kirkgate big screen, we’re a household of footie fans so I’ll be bringing my husband along to that one. Canterbury Tales starring Dave Mynne is heading to Kirkgate Arts Out West venues (The Beggars Theatre in MillomMuncaster Parish Hall Ravenglass and Loweswater Village Hall) I saw him performing ‘Dracula’ as a one man show a few years ago, in Ireby, which was a real treat!

Helen: I’m really excited about the new crafts@Kirkgate workshops next year, they’ll be a great way to socialise while learning new skills. On the Kirkgate Arts Out West schedule there is ‘Florence: the lesser known life and legacy of Florence Nightingale’ at three of our venues, The Globe Hall in IrebySt Bees Village Hall and The Beggars Theatre in Millom. It promises to inform as well as entertain in a celebration of Florence Nightingale‘s life and work. This events will be on our website very soon so keep your eyes peeled for the tickets being released.

Emma: The cooking@Kirkgate workshops have been such a success that I’m thrilled they will be continuing into 2024, keep a look out on our website for those events. We love the tasty smells wafting up to the office on a Wednesday morning! I’m also eager to see what cinematic treats the upcoming Oscars season has in store. We’re screening several films tipped for nominations at the 2024 awards in the new year, including Past Lives, our first film after the Christmas break.


As we approach the last handful of events in 2023 I can hardly believe how much we have packed in to this year! It’s been an incredibly busy and exciting twelve months, with lots of changes along the way.

We’re now planning further ahead than ever before, with 2024 already bursting at the seams with live music, cinema, theatre and more. I’m particularly looking foward to filling the centre with creativity through our new Crafts@Kirkgate events, if you’re stuck for a Christmas gift this would make the perfect present for a creative friend or family member! If you would like to book a place as a gift you can book as normal online and just let us know in the comment box the name, contact email and telephone number of the person attending the workshop.

Did you know you can also buy a ‘Friends of Kirkgate Arts & Heritage’ membership as a gift? Follow the instructions online here.

Looking back I think my highlight of 2023 has to be the Youth Theatre’s Christmas show, which was a magical production, in front of a packed auditorium! Written by our very own Tish Thornton and superbly lit by our technical volunteer Nick Jones. We’ve never seen the stage lights put to such creative use! Well done to all the performers for a really special night. If you know of a young budding actor who would like to get involved contact Tish here.

Another wonderful moment this year has to be hearing the announcement that Kirkgate Arts & Heritage have received The Kings Award for Voluntary Service. This national recognition of our volunteers makes me feel very proud to be part of the Kirkgate Arts family, and I applaud every one of our 100 strong team of dedicated volunteers for their enormous contribution to the arts and heritage in Cockermouth. Without them we simply wouldn’t exist!

So here’s to 2024, and all the exciting events it will bring to Cockermouth and throughout the region with a new season from Kirkgate Arts Out West soon to be announced.

Thank you for your support over the year, and a very Merry Christmas from all of us at Kirkgate Arts & Heritage.

Emma Heys
General Manager